The 1935 debate team at historically Black Wiley College in Texas defeated the defending national debate team champion from the University of Southern California. The story was told in the film The Great Debaters starring Denzel Washington.
Wiley College has maintained a reputation for excellence in debating. As a result, the college was chosen to establish a Historically Black Colleges and Universities Speech and Debate League. With a grant from the Charles Koch Foundation, the league will help to establish competitive forensics teams at HBCUs, and offer guidance and management in debate team development.
Christopher Medina, director of forensics at Wiley College and the head coach of the current Great Debaters, stated that “debate is probably the most powerful educational activity ever created; this activity does more than educate, it saves lives. This activity is a profound pedagogy that provides students with skills and educational opportunities which can be used throughout a student’s life, regardless of their chosen career path.”
The Historically Black Colleges and Universities Speech and Debate League will hold tournaments and conduct a HBCU National Championship tournament. The first national championship will be held at Wiley College this coming January.